Brand New Everything

Parker Renovates 3rd and 4th Floors

Construction+on+new+Upper+School+lockers.+Photo+by+Spencer+O%27Brien.

Photo credit: Spencer O'Brien

Construction on new Upper School lockers. Photo by Spencer O’Brien.

The once brightly colored narrow lockers that most high schoolers have come to know are gone, replaced by wide, shorter, and deeper squares stacked vertically along the eggshell white walls. The Dean of Student Life’s office, once located across from the Humanities Center on the fourth floor, now resides with the rest of the Upper School administration’s offices, tucked away in the middle of the third-floor hallway, across from the former sophomore bench, now replaced by lines of open-facing chairs for students to relax in.

This summer, the administration renovated major aspects of the third and fourth floors, including the sophomore bench, the Upper School Office, the Dean of Student Life’s office, and each of the Upper School’s locker areas. The project originally started with just redoing the locker areas, but quickly evolved to something larger than expected.

“It was my suggestion that we look at the renovation of pieces of the Upper School,” Head of Upper School Justin Brandon said. “The locker bay areas, they were a necessity. We had to renovate them because our lockers––the long, slim, skinny lockers––we learned were obsolete, so they were no longer being made, and that meant whenever some part of it broke down, we had to call a person to make a part and then send it to us.”

According to Brandon, there were a couple deciding factors that the faculty felt prompted the decision to renovate the locker areas. “One was that the shape of the lockers didn’t really allow for much use, outside of a slim bookbag and a couple of textbooks,” Brandon said. “I think it was kind of thinking about, ‘how to possibly get the gym bags in the lockers, or anything else besides a textbook.’”

Some students feel that the new lockers were long overdue. “I think that, honestly, those lockers make a lot of sense,” junior Carter Wagner said, “because, first off, it’s easier to fit things because nobody’s putting a saxophone in their locker. You don’t need something that tall in those lockers.” 

From there, the project took form. “It started with, ‘let’s look at the lockers,’ and then, the next thing was, ‘it would be great if the Dean’s office could be moved into the Upper School office already,’” Brandon said. “So that idea kind of had our architect thinking, ‘well, what other opportunities are there with the floor, with the work that’s been done.’”

Another factor that prompted the moving of the Dean’s office was the recent addition of the new Upper School History teacher and their need for a room to teach in. “I was also aware that we needed a classroom for an additional history teacher, and that person needed a room,” Principal Dan Frank said, “so I thought, ‘oh, well, if we use the office on the fourth floor, and we’re moving it down to the third floor anyway, well, there’s a classroom.”

But there were fewer pre-planned ideas when it came to the rest of the third floor. “When it came to looking at the benches, the hallway area, there were a lot of questions of, ‘how do we maximize that space,’” Brandon said. “And then that was coming from, I guess, the adults in my space and in our office, partially because the display case was … not being used to its fullest potential.”

The idea to redo the third floor hallway area, however, had been brewing in the minds of the Administration for years. “I had heard for many years that the space, just outside of the Upper School Head’s office, where those wooden benches are, I had heard from students for many years that the trophy thing is ‘dumb, it just sits there, we never really used it,’” Frank said. “There was a sense of it being an uncomfortable gallery of walking up and down and people sitting on the benches. It just didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel comfortable.”

Unlike other changes in the Upper School, this project seemingly had no student input on the design of the renovations. “This project, I guess, moved a lot faster than expected, as I initially started working with the students in the Architecture class to look at that space and the cat boxes, and things moved a lot quicker than I expected,” Brandon said. From there, Brandon realized that there were few changes that could be made. “Once the architect comes in with the renderings, it’s kind of where we stand,” Brandon said.

The Architecture class was originally tasked with designing a new third floor hallway space and met with Brandon to identify what the administration wanted the space to have. On November 2, the class was then tasked with designing a new model of the catboxes, which, according to members of the class, Frank and Brandon came and observed and talked with students about.

Members of the Architecture class enjoyed the project and thought that it was interesting for Parker to include it in the curriculum. “I want to applaud the Parker curriculum that the architecture course was designed around improving the school and it gave us an opportunity to go and have this real-life experience of designing a space,” Wagner said, “and even to the point where we were able to go down to the catboxes and get measurements, so that all of the models that we were making were pretty exact. I think it’s really interesting that Parker had that curriculum in the first place.”

While there was no direct communication between the architect and the Architecture class, their designs for a new third floor hallway were utilized. “I don’t know if there was any direct conversation between those students and the design of the third floor area,” Frank said. “But I do know that I’d seen their ideas, and the school’s architect had seen their ideas, and I think the idea of the benches, with tables and chairs, came from there, and it may have influenced it more indirectly than directly, but there was certainly a similarity in some of the ideas the students had worked on.”

While the process was not as direct as some students would have liked, members of the Architecture class still felt that their ideas were heard. “Honestly, I’m kind of a pessimist, so I wasn’t really sure if I felt that way, but according to the administration, meeting with our class, we gave them some really good ideas,” Wagner said. “Meeting with the administration multiple times and getting their feedback and input on our designs really felt like they were at least interested in what we had to say. Overall, it just felt like, kind of a partnership.”

Despite some early controversy concerning the replacement of the current sophomore bench, members of the community feel that this was a welcome change. “I think it’s good that they’re not getting rid of it, but just lengthening it,” Wagner said. “In the interview that we had with Mr. Brandon, he was talking about how he thought that the space was really an example of the divide between the grades, and I think that a long bench like that is really the way to allow more people to sit, and how it’s less of the sophomore bench, and it’s more of a seating place in the hallway, it’s not an official of a thing.”